alternately, "Diebin Am Nacht"
by Timothy Parker
The stone wall was cold against Longshanks's cheek. He stood stock still, one with the shadows of the dimly lit alcove, and watched as two figures stalked purposefully by.
His palm was wet with perspiration; fingers loosely curled around the hilt of his shortsword. The two figures, faceless from his vantage point but well armoured in chain hauberks and bearing long, wicked pikes, were obviously walking sentry-go through the long, dark corridors of the keep. What armed guards were doing marching in the corridors of a supposedly impregnable stronghold he didn't know and wondered at, but he wasn't about to linger and find out. He had almost crossed paths with more guards than he had arrows in his quiver, and the prospect of being discovered by any of them set his nerves on edge. He'd nearly ground his teeth into powder at the thought of it. After all, suppose they didn't take kindly to trespassers proving just how easy it really was to break into said impenetrable fortress-- then break out again no less-- right under everyone's noses! A wry smile twitched the corner of his mouth as he pondered what his excuse might be for the trespassing, but then again, now was not the time for idle bemusement.
He exhaled slowly. A bead of sweat trickled down his face to disappear into the short, greying beard that adorned his square chin. He watched the sentries round a far corner, then heard two voices speaking to each other, then two more join into the conversation. Thor's goats!! he swore silently, This place is all a-crawl with troops! He relaxed a moment as the voices echoed away into nothingness, and the heavy footfalls faded from his ears. Believing caution the best choice of tactics in this case, he waited a few moments more before deciding it was safe enough to proceed. Stepping out into the passage, he motioned with his other hand at those who stood behind him.
A largish man was Ayrn Duril, nicknamed "Longshanks" by his Brethren, for the length of stride he took, and called "Tall" by others who knew him as friend. His enemies called him not much at all, save perhaps Relentless Death, and a far-reaching one at that.
A hunter and tracker by profession, his weapon of choice was slung betwixt his shoulder blades: A yew longbow, tipped in the pearled whorls of some fantastic beast's horn. It was a weapon as stern as its wielder, and as tall as well. A score of black cloth-yard shafts hung over one shoulder, from the quiver there a mere eyeblink to his cheek. Animal skins and furs formed the bulk of his garments, testament to his hunting skills, although he did allow himself the luxury of a twilled shirt. The silver--grey pelt of a wolf was about his shoulders-- this a remembrance of life past.
The blade he held at his side resembled a Viking Scramasax; an ordinary shortsword by most standards, save that its hilt was wrought of stag's horn, and was double-edged. Usually it weighed his left hip and tapped his knee with its point. Not in a decade of years or more, and perhaps many beyond that, had its blade tasted blood. That the cold-forged and wickedly gleaming iron remained unstained was proof enough of Longshanks's skill with the bow.
The narrow, stonework hallway he walked was feebly lit by smoky torches set in sconces along the walls every twenty paces or so. The air was tinged with a burnt cinder-like taste that seemed to stick in the back of Duril's throat. Two more shadowy figures crept out of the darkness into the passage and followed the lanky ranger. They all moved along in silence, their caution adding weight to their shuffle; their footfalls bare whispers of leather across stone. The passageway eventually crossed another, and here they stopped.
Longshanks looked first one way and then the other, concern marring his features. The chicken-scratch wrinkles that ringed his eyes were readily apparent. He glanced back at his companions behind him. The first was becloaked in a dark cowl and cape, but he could see the features of the young maiden inside. Barely midway through her second half-score of years, Duril could foresee a beauty in her that men would kill-- and some possibly die-- for. Pale, golden tresses coiled from inside the hood, framing her delicate face; lucent green eyes stared back at him, fear evident in their emerald depths. A glimmer within hinted at tears unshed, while the ruddiness in her cheeks presupposed otherwise. Smudges of dirt blemished those features, doing nothing to detract from the loveliness inherent within. She bit her lip, saying nothing, trying to appear brave he knew, but still a little girl frightened and crying inside.
Deeming herself ready for the world and all its wonders, she had run away half a season ago from the comforts of hearth, home and family, to experience all those wonders. And she did. Not a fortnight had passed then before she had been taken in by a less-than-reputable lord, and his hospitality had turned into something that had the obvious stench of imprisonment. Confined to the bounds of his isolated retreat, she soon realized the vast elegance he had showered her with had a gilded tinge to it. Denied the freedom even to send word to her family, her fear grew daily, as did her new benefactor's umbrage of her. It had taken Longshanks weeks to track her down, through scrying means both mystical and mundane, leagues away from her last known location.
Accompanied by the Irish stalwart and scoundrel, Timothy O'Cuire, he had located the keep of one Sieghard of Schürstab, whom, he had on the good authority of the Burgomaster of Lübeck, the girl had last been seen in the company of. Schürstab, a local nobleman of some fame, was also rumored to be a Raubritter, a ruthless robber-knight who preyed upon the stolen riches of others for sustenance. Once a brother of a mighty order, the Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons, the blackness of his heart had led him down a foul road to pillage and rapine, and he had been cast out for it. Now, Sieghard had come home to the Holy Roman Empire from Prusiaski, as Raubritter and plague to the land. The fortress was a small but imposing one, a Wasserburg nestled in a small vale some way south of Lübeck and east of Hamburg, a stone's throw from the banks of the coursing Elbe.
The aged archer had attempted to enlist the aid of as many of The Brethren as possible, but, alas, O'Cuire alone could he reach, for Timeras was closest, studying as he was in Urbino, in the north of Italy. Of the others they heard no word, during the long week they waited after the Irishman had joined Duril. Their thoughts were that the lads were weeks or months or even years away: MacKeag was last known to have ventured east with MacFann, beyond fabled Arabia, and they had not been seen in a year or more. Dias was at sea, and likewise Bram Egan, the younger FitzMaurice. Of Black Stephen they'd heard little, and of the elder FitzMaurice, David Roe, that he, perhaps, was campaigning in nearby Tuscany. O'Cuire had hoped Red Davy would show, as close as he himself had been, but still no word came from the Condottierre. Finally, unable to wait any longer, the two had no recourse but to assail the stronghold by themselves.
They had stolen over the keep's parapet during night's darkest hour, cautiously avoiding the surprising number of soldiers they found patrolling the enclosure. For what purpose so many men-at-arms were at hand, they knew not, nor was it their care. (Oh, Timeras was mildly curious as to their purpose, but he kept it to himself, not wanting to alarm Ayrn any more than was necessary.) They had slipped past the night-watch like a pair of wraiths through an age old tomb, and then began their haunting.
Upon entering the keep proper, it had taken the two rescuers but a quarter Hour to locate the girl, in a room as comfortable as any Lady's chamber. And yet, still it was a prison cell. Thus, by the time church bells were pealing their tones at Lauds, O'Cuire had easily "negotiated" the locked door, and the rescue was under way. Like the cloying mist that had accompanied their penetration of the citadel's defenses, they drifted silently through the dim corridors toward their goal of the palisade wall.
O'Cuire brought up the rear of their little party. He had not Duril's height, nor his breadth of shoulder, but was possessed of a slim, wiry build with a tenacious strength and agility that were more than adequate restitution for his slightness. Fair of complexion, his once-light hair and closely cropped beard and mustache had darkened with the passing of years, and grey streaks splashed both mane and jaw. His face too was lined with age, yet the wrinkles seemed to add something to his composure. Perhaps it lent a greater dignity to his features. He was outfitted all in black, from knee-high jack-boots to supple doeskin elbow-length gauntlets. His taste, a bit more refined than Longshanks's, allowed him the more civilized of comforts, such as a silken shirt and an ebony chamois jacket. His current weapon of propensity was a hand-and-a-half 'bastard' sword; wielded easily with one or both hands. Rumored to be the work of Wayland Smith, it hung at his hip from a plain leather baldric.
Age-old friends were Longshanks and Timeras. It seemed they had known each other for generations. Indeed, so close were they that they might have been kinsman, and considered each other so. The ranger had only but to ask the aid of his friend, with no queries in return. None were necessary. It mattered not the reasons, just the fact of the asking and of the peril that required his talents. Family was all that mattered.
His mind once again in the passageway, Longshanks listened intently for a moment. He cast his gaze at his old friend, who caught it and read it with an ease that would have taken other men years to procure. "One way or the other, what does it matter?" said O'Cuire, "Up or down should we be ponderin' on." Called the Rogue by his friends (and no few female acquaintances), Timeras then shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the passageway to the right.
* * *
The Hell-black hound snatched the bloody piece of meat out of mid-air, jaws snapping it, and tore at it hungrily, bolting the morsel down as if there was chance of it escaping. In mere seconds it was gone, the only testament to its existence staining the muzzle of its fate. The dog licked its chops, where unearthly flame crackled, erasing even that small token. It looked back with eyes like fiery coals, sure sign of its supernatural origin, at its master, who, sitting at the head of a long, oaken table, threw further tender tidbits to his beast in sanguinary bemusement. The hound was said to be spawn of Garm, guardian of the hell-gate; entrance to the realm of the dead. It had been a gift to him from a grateful patron to whom he had done service, and none knew whence it had been gotten before.
Sieghard of Schürstab chuckled heartily, obviously enjoying his pet's bloodthirstiness. He was a large man, with stout features and a sardonic look in his eye. Unlike his fellow Teutons, he wore his mane of ebon hair long. Only the white streaks at his temples and corners of his beard denoted he might be of the Fürsten, the lesser nobles of the Holy Roman Empire. He dressed in evident opulence, sporting the dividends of a successful bandit career.
He stuffed one final piece of roast boar into his mouth, and began chewing with abandon, then licked the bloody juices from his fingers. His guest at the table watched him, making no comment, carefully concealing her disgust; at his manners or mere existence, she was not sure. She pushed away the platter in front of her, and took a sip from the half-empty wine cup.
She was a strong looking woman, with hard features, telltale marks that gave evidence to her lineage from the Scandinavian peoples of the far north. Blond hair, its length flowing easily to the mid of her back, was pulled away from her face and tied into a single, thick braid. High cheekbones accented a calculating face, with thin, canted eyebrows arcing above. One eye was covered by a black woolen patch, result of an old injury, but the other was almond shaped, and had a deep sapphirine tint to it. Hers was a cold beauty, marred only by a long scar, which ran at an angle across her face, starting at her right brow, down across the bridge of her nose, to intersect her left cheekbone. The wound had taken her eye, and luckily not her life.
She contemplated him, her newly accepted lord and employer, this Raubritter. He lived off the toil and ache of the common people he held sway over, and continued to grind them into the ground, by unjust levies and taxations, with a compassion one usually reserved for vermin crushed beneath the heel of one's boot. She was well paid for her services though. But she thought, I am beginning to see why, now.
"So," he began to speak, all the while picking bits of meat from between his teeth, the words slurring slightly around his fingers, "you do not approve of the morrow's forthcoming activities? I assure you, the profit will be high, and the Turks, heathen savages that they are, will not ask any questions." He reached for his own goblet. Gesticulating his point with the wine cup in hand, he continued. "Why the girl alone should bring in fifty Rhinegulden!" He quaffed a mighty draught from the cup, wine splashing over the rim to run down his beard and drip into his lap, then heaved forth a mighty belch. "And, add to that the other...commodities, we should do quite well." He leaned back in his chair and chuckled, obviously pleased with himself.
The woman felt her stomach begin to turn. The thought of enslavement sickened her. Indentured servitude was one thing, and a way of life for many common folk; why she herself had been a bonded servant before finally being given her freedom, but total slavery- the buying and selling of human flesh as if it were livestock- this was too much. But she said nothing. She stared at her lord and drank again, deeply, seeking some solace from the bottom of the winecup.
Her introspective inaction infuriated the Raubritter. He flung his copper goblet from him; it clanged against one wall, then fell to the stone floor, and the dog moved over to it to sniff at its spilled contents.
"I do not seek your approval, my dear Thora!!" he roared, almost as if in challenge.
"Then you will not, most likely, receive it. My lord." She spoke calmly and clearly, adding the last almost in afterthought.
Outraged, he jumped to his feet and pounded his fist on the table. "I most certainly will have that which I have paid for- loyalty and obedience!!" His lower lip trembled a-fury.
She continued to meet his gaze with her own for a few moments more, then she bowed her head. "Your will is my law, my lord." she said, keeping her eyes lowered. There is a time and place for bravery and insolent disobedience, but this is not it, she told herself.
Somewhat taken aback, and yet appeased by the same token, Sieghard blinked, then sat back down, once again brandishing a haughty air as if it were a weapon.
"Well and done, then," he said, dismissing her with a wave. "See to your affairs. I'll speak to you again in the morning, at Terce."
Thora got to her feet, bowed her head again, and resisted the urge to curl her lip. "My lord." She quickly exited the hall and made for her chambers, holding her arms straight down at her sides, unaware that her hands had turned into tightly-clenched snow-capped fists.
* * *
They came upon an ascending tower stair, whereupon Longshanks espied a lone window, halfway up the steps to the next level. He counted a slow score of breaths and then, assured they had gone thus far unnoticed, motioned them up the barbican stair.
He turned back to quietly shut the iron-braced door behind them. He threw the bolt, then brought two iron spikes from within one of the pouches that were hung at his side. Withdrawing also a small wooden mallet, its head no larger than his fist, he proceeded to hammer the spikes into the crack between door and hinge, effectively sealing off their retreat. Or, at the very least,(he hoped) serve to slow down any pursuit into the tower. He winced at each hammered blow, afraid the dull cracking sounds made by his efforts would carry to unfriendly ears.
Satisfied the door would hold firm, Duril turned and swiftly rejoined his companions. Cautiously, they continued to creep up the stairs, ever vigilant for any sign that they had been discovered. They reached the small landing poised halfway up the tower stair to the next floor, where the window he had detected earlier was ensconced. The casement overlooked a lonely section of the battlement wall. Good, he thought, we've reached the Bergfried. Almost home.
Longshanks passed the window and took up a defensive position a few paces away. He gave a short nod and O'Cuire and the girl moved over to the tall, narrow opening. She peered out, anticipating life once again as she had known it, safe from all dangers, surrounded by family, friends and all the comforts of home. She looked for a moment longer, then her gaze returned slowly to the tall, motionless figure of her rescuer and now protector.
His body was arrow straight, his face handsome beneath the salt and peppered beard. She felt her heart skip a beat. Then she chided herself for getting herself -and them as a consequence- into this mess in the first place. If she hadn't had that argument with her father over his wish for a political marriage between her and an Obervogt, a highly ranked member of the Hanseatic League, then she would be there now, guarded safely by the walls of home.
She turned her gaze back to the scene outside the window, where the darkness of night was fading to a murky grey on the horizon as dawn fast approached. From the high tower window she had a bird's eye view of the surrounding landscape, including most of the keep's bailey below. The guardhouse stood off to the north, as did the main gate and the stables.
Timeras pulled free the coiled length of rope that he had slung over one shoulder. To one end he had attached a five-pronged iron grapnel. He glanced out the window over the girl's shoulder and ascertained the positions of the patrolling watchmen. Timing would be of the utmost importance.
Longshanks bent his longbow with a grunt, ignoring the creak in his bones. Testing the taut catgut string, the sound of a rapid clicking on stone came to his ears. Whirling around, he had a split second to see a large, dark form leaping from the top of the staircase above them and the flash of glistening fangs going for his throat. Flame crackled at his ear, and he felt its heat sear his neck and cheek. The beast crashed headlong into him, knocking him stumbling back in collision with his old friend. The Irishman was sent sprawling, and the girl, standing behind him next to the window, plunged through it as a result.
Duril heard her scream of terror, but it was all he could do to keep the snapping, slavering jaws from tearing out his throat. He bit back a curse when he saw flames-- snapping flames-- in the beast's maw. The scorching heat threatened to blind him. He saw now that it was an enormous hound, and intuitively knew it to be some hellish dog from the nether-regions, guardian to this keep and its treasures. He felt the blood rush to his head and his face flush hot as he kept both of his hands bunched in the animal's hair, barely keeping it at bay. Its claws had driven a significant groove across his left cheek, and he could feel the blood trickling down into his beard. The screaming continued outside the window, and out of the corner of his eye, the ranger saw O'Cuire leap for the casement.
The girl had managed to grasp one hand to the window's ledge, but was swinging the other wildly around, all the while voicing great shrieks that would soon (if they had not already) awaken everyone in the keep (if not in all of Bavaria) to their presence. She stopped for a breath, swallowed dryly, and felt tears rolling down her cheeks. Then her precarious grip failed and gave way. She screamed again and plunged into Death's open embrace.
Longshanks, driven to one knee by the hound's weight, fell back onto the landing's stone floor, taking the dog with him. Planting a foot into the beast's belly, he rolled back over one shoulder and, kicking, propelled the beast down the staircase.
Knocked aside by the guardian hound's rabid rush, O'Cuire looked up just in time to see the girl's fingers clutching desperately the stone window frame. Leaping to his feet, he reached the window only to see those fingers, blood trailing from the nails, slip free.
"Saints, no!!" he cried, throwing himself out after her.
As a judgment of Fate, or owing to some saint who blessed such actions, or perhaps it was Lady Luck, who chose to blow a kiss to a swashbuckler who had spent his life courting her, whatever the rationale, O'Cuire knew not. And yet, somehow, he had managed to catch the falling girl's wrist. With a bone-numbing jerk that almost separated his shoulder from its socket, he halted her descent, and robbed the Grim Reaper once again. Or so he thought. Waves of pain rippled along his arm. Then, he too, felt the girl's fingers slipping from his own.
Tall Ayrn Duril was preoccupied. Climbing to his feet, his sight met that of an ax-wielding man-at-arms who, charging down the steps, barked a challenge at him. Sweeping up his bow, the ranger sprang up the stairs bellowing a war-cry of his own.
He made no attempt to draw an arrow, however, but swung the yew bow like he was hewing mightily at the trunk of a tree. Catching the guard across the knees with the taut hardwood, he sent him tumbling heavily down the stone steps, rewarding Duril with a sickening crunch.
Longshanks hurriedly grabbed up the fallen ax and turned to face the returning hell-hound, its claws clicking rapidly on the stone floor as it clambered over the steps as before. There was a low growl in the back of its throat and fire crackled from its jaws as it charged the lanky ranger.
Showing his own teeth, Longshanks too growled, then bashed the ax down on the animal's head, cleaving its skull in twain. It dropped twitching in its tracks.
"Nett hund." he muttered, and turned to aid his companions.
Timeras thought his strength had given out, for suddenly the strain was gone from his arm, leaving only the dull ache of stretched muscle. Longshanks had reached over him to grasp the girl's forearm.
"Cease your wailing, woman!" He grunted and began pulling on both of them. "You're safe enough now! Will you have the whole castle coming down about our ears?" He bared his clenched teeth at the strain, loosed a second grunt, and then with a mighty heave pulled both of them back into the tower.
O'Cuire nodded a gratitude, his chest pumping like a bellows. He winced as he massaged his bruised shoulder. "Not quite so young as we used tae be, eh, Longshanks lad?"
The grizzled ranger nodded back. He held the girl in his arms to still her shaking, all harsh words fled from memory as quickly as he had uttered them. He stroked her hair tenderly with a calloused hand and rubbed away a running tear with a finger. "There, now, darlin'," he soothed, "we told you to expect this, didn't we?" He glanced back at the guard's crumpled and still form, lying halfway down the stair; at the man's head, that rested at that unnatural angle, like the bloom of a flower broken from its stalk after the raging of a storm. Duril tilted his head again to O'Cuire, who was readying his rope. "Why, the worst is behind us. Before you know it you'll be safe at home again, warm in your bed."
The girl shook her head furiously, blinking back more tears, trying desperately to be brave for this man who loved her. Duril moved with her back toward the window. She began to tremble once more. "I can't do it," she sobbed, "I just can't do it." Her shaking grew worse, and she buried her face in his chest.
He pushed her away and held her at arm's length. "Now you listen to me, girl. You are going to go down that rope, and another one yet, so get used to the idea."
Timeras anchored the grapnel and tossed the rope coil out the window.
"Now, then, me an' Timmy'll be with you all the time, but we have to go now, while we can. And when you get over that outer wall, you start running. Don't look back. No matter what happens. The horses are in a little hollow due east, just inside the forest, so you head right into the sun. Home is in that direction, too, a ha'-score days' ride. You mind me, girl. You keep going! Timeras an' I have been in worse pinches than this, an' we've come out grinning. We'll come out of this one." His words meant well but the finality of his tone did nothing to convince her.
O'Cuire tested the line, then jumped back from the opening as something cracked on the wall just outside. He grimaced. "Company."
Longshanks swore. "I'm cursed tired of this." Taking up his bow, he nocked an arrow and stepped to the window. "Take this, you rat bastard," he muttered. They heard a faint outcry a half a heart's beat later.
"Right." Timeras said, grabbing the girl into an embrace. "Enough o' this." He looked into her eyes and could feel a strange tugging inside his chest. His breath caught in the back of his throat for a moment. "Lock yer arms behind me neck, lass. Don't be lettin' go unless I tell you." the smile he flashed her was warm and comforting. She nodded, pale, but again collected.
He glanced up at his old friend and cocked a wry eyebrow. They shared a look that spoke a thousand words. "I'll cover her, and you had better damn well cover me."
The archer helped them out the window. The maid drew in a deep breath, keeping it taut in her chest and shut her eyes tight. Hand over hand they descended, the Irishman keeping the maiden's body between himself and the wall, shielding her with his own.
They were halfway to the rampart when guards began pouring into the bailey below. Longshanks called a word of warning, then began a methodic harassing fire down into the gathering crowd of men-at-arms. Somewhere a horn blew.
The soldiers lost no time in finding cover, once discovering the effectiveness of a talented archer from a strategic, fortified position. A handful already dead in as many shots, none more would soon brave again the open. By the time Duril saw the Rogue land atop the battlement wall, he had managed to pick off yet another handful of the foolhardy troop, who thought themselves safe venturing into the courtyard at a greater distance.
Timeras had pushed the girl down against the crenelated wall, out of the line of fire, and gone back to steady the rope for his partner when he had to dive for cover himself. A small detail of crossbowmen appeared from around a corner below, firing a volley of bolts up at the would-be rescuers. The girl screamed. Duril jerked away from the window as two quarrels splintered against the wall, demonstrating the skill of their firers. They had but narrowly missed the ranger, and he had felt the stinging rain of stone fragments upon his cheek.
O'Cuire steeled himself to leap up when a powerful voice sounded from the courtyard beneath them. "Thieves!" It rang and resounded against the enclosing walls of the courtyard. The Irishman stayed his motion, then peered down to find the voice's owner. He saw a tall, dark-haired man standing amongst the arbalesters. Unarmoured, he wore a white tunic with a black cross emblazoned upon it. Before Timeras could speak, Longshanks replied from the window above.
"Herr Sieghard, I presume?"
The Teuton made no notice of his recognition. "Thieves of my house! You break in and seek to steal that which is mine! Have you no honor?"
Duril curled his lip. "Honor? Do not speak to me of honor, Herr Raubritter! Honor is beyond your reckoning!"
"Nevertheless, you steal from me! Steal that which is of much value to me! That girl belongs to me!!"
Longshanks felt the anger growing slowly inside him like a cancer. "I do not rob mine own people of that which they toil so hardly for, the very fruits of their labors! Nor do I follow the practice of ambushing unwary travelers of the Emperor's roads and relieve them of their valuables either! I retrieve that which belongs to me," he said in a hard, low tone, "and has been mine since long before your wretched carcass lay claim to existence upon this Earth!!"
The Teuton's eyes flashed. "Do I know you, sirrah?"
Only O'Cuire could hear the archer's whispered reply. "Only as man knows the face of his own death."
Unnoticed by all, two large black ravens fluttered down out of the brightening sky, alighting upon the barbican summit, to watch the impending battle.
Damn him, the Irishman thought, then leapt up before anything else occurred. "Longshanks! Let's be off!"
The ranger leaned out and loosed a shaft into the crowd. He decreased the number of enemy crossbows by one, but missed Sieghard as he leapt behind a hapless guard unlucky enough to receive the deadly missile in the chest.
Duril then jerked loose the grapnel and tossed it down to the battlement, narrowly missing O'Cuire, who had to sidestep to avoid being brained by it. "Go on!" he shouted. "Get her the hell out of here! I'll cover you!"
Enraged, Sieghard of Schürstab fled to a safe distance. "Kill them both, but I'll have the head of the man that harms the girl!!" he bellowed.
Timeras ducked another flurry of humming bolts, this time closer than he cared to admit. He even felt the sting of one brush past his cheek.
"Damn fool heroic bastard," he muttered, and picked up the hook. Anchoring it again, this time on the outer wall, he tossed the line through an embrasure. "All right girl, now we..." his words trailed off as his attention riveted on the doorway to the barbican. The door slammed open, disgorging a knot of armored soldiers, one of whom was outfitted in blackened mail, with a solid steel breastplate. A full, visored helm shielded the knight's features, and he wielded a blackened hand-and-a-half 'bastard' sword that mirrored the Rogue's own. O'Cuire's eyebrow cocked up half a notch. Oh-ho!, he thought, Methinks a worthy adversary, ...perhaps. "Get down that rope, girl," he growled.
She shook her head fearfully.
"Now, damn ye! I've nae the time tae be arguin' wi' ye aboot it! Dinnae make our sacrifice a vain one!" Those were the last words he ever spoke to her. Without even a look back, O'Cuire turned and strode forth to meet the foe.
Sieghard looked up to the battlement and chuckled. "A timely arrival, Wildenstain! I had wondered where you were. Kill the dog, but spare the girl, she's of no use to me dead." The black mailed warrior nodded, and the soldiers began to shuffle forward.
Unbeknownst to all, on a secluded hillock less than a league distant to the north, lightning flashed for a moment where there had been no storm. When the diamond brilliance passed, a group of maidens, nine in all, stood there, each seated upon a pale steed. These maids were young and beautiful, with dazzling white arms and flowing golden hair. They each wore winged helms of silver and gold, and corselets of blood red, night black or shining silver. Glittering spears and shields they bore, and the very air around them shimmered as if misted with hoar frost or mountain's dew. A cloying, pale mist swirled and churned about the hooves of their mounts, to roll onward down, to obscure even the hill they stood upon. They were silent and still and watching, as if intent upon the conflict 'tho it be distant.
The sky was strewn with banks of thick, morose clouds that threatened to stifle the breath of a newborn day. The wind was chill and brisk, and 'tho it had a bite, it moved not the billowy tufts that blanketed the heavens. Yet tightly as night held on, still it could not impede much the birth of the dawn, with its resolute grip upon the eastern horizon.
Longshanks released an arrow, dispatching yet another crossbowman. He glanced back at the wall, startled to see a battle impending there. O'Cuire was moving to engage three armoured foemen, but the girl was nowhere to be seen.
Fighting down the wave of panic that clenched his gut, he waited a moment, and watched his friend enter into battle.
Timeras made no move to draw his sword, even though his adversaries' weapons were bared. The tallest of the guards carried a Fauchard, a two-foot, single-edged blade mounted on a six foot pole. This one seemed most eager to close. The Black Knight, he noted, hung back, and allowed the other two the initiative. Perhaps, he thought again, not so worthy after all.
The rampart was barely wide enough for two men to walk astride, let alone fight upon. The poleman moved ahead, the other fell back a step to give him room.
The Irishman stood lightly on the balls of his feet, arms wide and empty, a broad grin upon his face. "Come now lads! Let us dance!"
The poleman lunged forward, hoping to skewer the Rogue like a pig on the spit, but Timeras was ready. Darting swiftly aside, he grasped the Fauchard behind the head and pulled the startled soldier forward off balance. Smashing his elbow into the guard's unprotected face, the Irishman twisted the lance up and out of its owner's grip. Planting the butt of the weapon hard into the stone walkway, O'Cuire pole-vaulted past him.
Astonished at the daring move, the second guard could not react fast enough as Timeras swung both booted feet into his chest, knocking him stumbling back into the Black Knight, who cursed darkly. Whipping around, the Rogue whirled the pole-ax expertly about and turned his attention back to the first guard. Flourishing the weapon like a quarterstaff, he feinted with the blade at the hapless soldier's legs, then brought the haft winging down to crack him across the skull, sending him reeling. The guard, stunned and off-balance, pitched backwards. Finishing what gravity had started, the Rogue gave the wildly flailing soldier a shove, toppling him off the wall. Timeras then gave the Fauchard a glance that suggested distaste, and tossed it after its master.
O'Cuire turned to face the remaining two soldiers, sly grin intact upon his face. The 'bastard' sword slipped free its sheath with a resounding ring. He gave it an expert twirl. "Right. Who's next?"
Longshanks pulled shaft to cheek in one smooth motion, and his vision tunneled to his target- the dark plumage that adorned the Black Knight's Great Helm. He would have preferred Sieghard's oily locks, but they cowered still amongst the crowd of guardsmen. The archer was not a discriminate man. "Here, now, let me part that for you..." he started to murmur, when something strange happened. The image of the knight seemed to shimmer before his very eyes, like the heated air over a blacksmith's coals. There was a scintillation of colors, and his sight blurred. After a moment's hesitation, he blinked rapidly to clear his vision. Perhaps something was amiss with his eyes. But no, whatever it had been was now gone. He re-focused upon his mark when a flicker of movement caught the corner of his eye.
His attention fled the black plume to center on the running figure of the maiden, outside the walls of the keep, dashing headlong for the treeline. Go, girl! Run! he thought, then was horrified to see another figure emerge from beneath the walls to chase after her. Then there was another... then another... then yet one more! All wearing the Teuton's livery, all bearing down on the fleeing maid, all with weapons drawn. The Teuton's voice crashed in upon his thoughts. "Kill her!! If I cannot have her, no one shall!!"
The bowman reacted instinctively, switching targets, from the Black Knight, to the nearest- and therefore most dangerous- of the girl's pursuers. He exhaled, releasing breath and arrow at the same time. Before the first deadly missile had driven home, Longshanks had another nocked to the waxed string with fletchings drawn to cheek. He loosed the second with no more thought than the first, as he would the third and fourth in succession. He trusted of his skill, and perhaps, in the will of God. He moved as they moved, his aim shifting as unconsciously as the soldiers ran, his eye following and leading his mark as fluidly as a river followed its winding course unerringly to the sea. Each clothyard missile flew true, and executed its sentence with lethal precision.
The first shaft skewered the guard through his torso, piercing quite a few vital organs, to kill him instantly. The second shot was equally devastating. The arrow passed completely through the soldier's body, dropping him in his tracks.
Through some other sense, for he knew he did not see them, he perceived reinforcements arriving inside the bailey below. Somehow, he knew that in mere moments he could be picked off by some crossbowman and that a sudden massing of guards could overwhelm O'Cuire. Yet he concentrated on the plight outside the keep walls. He could not do otherwise. And Timeras, he thought, would have it no other way.
The increasing distance became more of a hazard for his next two shots. Time, for Longshanks, seemed to slow. He could feel his heart pump in his chest, slowly and laboriously, seemingly less than a beat each minute as he drew once more on the bowstring. The third soldier was just raising his sword to strike the girl down, achingly slow, when the keening arrow smote upon him like a hammer blow. It drove in under one arm, splitting the chain byrnie there, and spun him about to throw him to the ground. Bloody spray burst from his lips as the shaft spitted both lungs.
Then calamity struck. The girl screamed and tripped, collapsing to the ground.
Longshanks felt his stomach drop and his heart hammering in his throat as the final guard grabbed the girl's mane of blond locks in his free hand, and, jerking her head up, raised an ax with the other.
Duril's arm felt like a leaden weight as he reached yet again into the quiver at his shoulder. His breath caught in his throat as emptiness met his fingers. Panic drummed a deafening beat in his ears as he frantically clutched at the vacant case.
Then, as if guided by St. Eustace's own hand, his fingers clasped around a single shaft, last of its fellows. With a speed akin to lightning, Longshanks drew it out and ran the ebon fletching past his lips, wetting it with his tongue, praying the shaft would fly truer than any he'd ever sent before.
He released the string as the ax began to fall. The soldier never completed his blow. Tall Ayrn's arrow entered the back of his neck, and passed completely through his throat, tearing out his windpipe, and severing his spine, slaying him instantly. The body crumpled down over the girl's, forcing her to the earth. Screaming all the while, she managed to crawl from underneath the corpse and begin running again for the trees.
The ravens upon the summit croaked and beat the breeze with fluttering wing, yet staid their perch.
Almost weeping in relief, Longshanks breathed a word of thanks to whoever watched over such spectacles, and returned his attentions to the castle wall. He did so in time to see disaster strike.
One of the mailed figures to the north, their leader perhaps, nodded to herself, once, almost as if in approval.
O'Cuire had, in some way, felled the second man-at-arms, and was now advancing past his motionless body, intent upon engaging the black mailed knight, who had raised his 'bastard' sword in salute. The two were about to enter into a duel of what could only be described as of epic proportions. More guards issued out onto the rampart behind them both, and even now held back to watch the spectacle about to take place.
Unbeknownst to the cocky Rogue, however, the soldier he'd thought fallen rose silently up, like a spectre from a barrow, and brandished his weapon at Timeras' unprotected back. The flanged mace rose and fell in a deadly arc, striking O'Cuire and smashing him into the granite wall even as Longshanks's shout of warning rang out, a moment too late.
The Rogue crumpled to the battlement, and the echoing alarum died with him. Silence ensued as his sword clattered from lifeless fingers, ringing faintly in the absence of din, to lie beside his body.
Time for a moment, stood still.
Longshanks barely heard himself bellow as he watched his friend, his Brother, fall. Leaping into suddenly furious action, he flung himself from the tower window, his vision clouding over with the bloody rage of his forefathers, the Berserks. The air hummed with sound of buzzing crossbow quarrels as the keep's defenders turned at his outcry. Unfeeling of the bolt that tore into the fleshy part of his shoulder, his leap carried him crashing into two men-at-arms perched upon the wall. He lost his grip upon his bow as he crushed one beneath his weight and sent the other stumbling back.
Drawing his boot-knife in less time than it took to draw a breath, he slashed its edge across the soldier's throat beneath him, then hurled it at the other, who was struggling to his feet bare paces away. The weighted blade flipped end over end to bury itself point first in its victim's eye-socket, spouting a crimson gout of blood in its wake.
Longshanks was already on his feet, racing along the battlements, catching up first one, then another primed crossbow that had fallen from useless fingers, and, raising each in succession, firing them without thought. Aimed only by instinct, both bolts thudded home, felling two more guards who were even then turning to meet his charge.
Hurdling crumpled bodies, Tall Ayrn dropped one now useless arbalest, and brought the other around in a two-handed grip, brandishing it like a club. He smashed it into the face of yet another surprised soldier, knocking him over and off of the wall to plummet to the ground far below.
Embracing the low growl that rose deep in the cavern of his throat, Longshanks advanced on the two remaining guardsmen that stood between him and his fallen comrade. He could see Timeras's body beyond them, and he snarled a vehement curse of vengeance. The Black Knight stood over him, doing nothing, watching the enraged ranger, as if curious to his fury.
Duril bellowed again. "Here, you cowardly dogs, you motherless curs!! Join me in Hell!!"
The knight met his gaze, raging hot fury that it was. Unflinchingly, he did nothing but watch as two figures in mail harnasche stepped forward to meet the ranger; he, armed only with the splintered kindling that had once been a crossbow; they, fully mailed and heavily burdened with glittering instruments of devastation.
The first soldier charged ahead and swung a mighty blow with a broadsword. Longshanks ducked beneath it, and the blade clanged loudly against a merlon. Sparks flew from where its edge scraped against stone.
Expecting such an obvious attack, the lanky ranger clouted his makeshift club into the guard's unprotected face. The blow crushed his nose and knocked him reeling. Throwing his weight into the momentarily stunned soldier, he parried the other's mace, but lost the club to the jarring assault.
Pain lanced up and down Duril's arm as the first guard, regained of his senses, brought the pommel of his sword crashing down upon his shoulder. Then the limb beneath it went numb.
Ayrn dodged forward, trying to keep the two soldiers within dagger's reach, limiting the effectiveness of their weapons' greater lengths. The ploy didn't result as he had hoped, for he ended up between the two of them, weaponless and now slightly crippled.
A desperate idea came to his mind as both guards raised their weapons. With a resounding bellow, Longshanks charged the mace-wielder, and knowing full well his opponents' credence for back-stabbings, deliberately turned away from the other soldier. He was, in fact, counting upon a coward's response.
In the last heartbeat of his action, Duril threw himself to one side, narrowly escaping decapitation from behind. The other guard fared not so well. Unable to stop his blow, just as Longshanks had hoped, the swordsman struck instead his fellow, the mace-wielder, who stood just within sword's reach.
The broadsword bit through the fellow's helm and bretache, to shear away a full quarter of the guard's face. Deep it clove, into the flesh and bone of the man's jaw, to continue downwards, hewing a great rent in his chest, parting the chain hauberk there. The man screamed and stumbled back, the sound gurgling in his throat as it filled with his own blood. The mace, which had moments before been a symbol of his strength and power, fell limply from his grasp, rapping to the stone walkway, to roll and fall away, abandoning its owner to his fate.
The swordsman stared at him, shocked, and he stood unmoving. In that moment of hesitation, Longshanks reached back and drew his own blade, the stag's-horn hilted Scramasax, legacy of his Viking ancestors, from its sheath.
The Black Knight still remained aloof, disdaining the melee.
Stepping quickly forward, Longshanks grabbed the wounded mace-wielder and pulled him close. Before the swordsman could aid his fellow, the ranger thrust the point of his blade into the man's side, up between the six and eighth ribs, penetrating the chain links, to pierce his still pumping heart. The guard's head jerked up, a choked cry coughed flecks of blood from his throat, and a glazed look came to his eye.
Longshanks gritted his teeth and twisted the blade. "Rot in hell, you back-stabbing son-of-a-bitch!!" he cursed as the soldier convulsed his life away. He pushed the dying man-at-arms from the parapet, and watched as the body fell to the ground, to lie crumpled, twisted and broken amidst a small cloud of dust.
A single tear rolled down Ayrn's cheek, funneling a trench in the dirt there, a coursing of memory and emotion; But not of remorse for what he had done, no; One shed because of regret, the regret that he could not have been the one to lie in O'Cuire's place.
The swordsman started to action, but was brought up short by motion from the Black Knight.
Duril stood there, breath coming in short gasps, arms like iron, the wound in his shoulder throbbing like the heaving bellows of an angry furnace, and waited. His Scramasax hung limply from his fingers, blood draining slowly down the blade to drip, unhurried, into a small pool on the granite walkway.
The knight watched him still, arms outstretched in front of him, palms resting on the hilt of his mighty battle-sword, which stood naked point down before him.
Longshanks stood there, shaking, the initial blood rush ebbing in his veins. Then the madness began creeping back upon him as a voice shouted up from the bailey.
"Damn you, Wildenstain!! I want his head!!" Sieghard of Schürstab trembled in rage. His voice quaked. "Kill him!!!"
Duril looked up, once again maddened beyond comprehension. "One at a time, or all of you together, I will take you down, you mother-loving whore-dogs!!" he growled, then bellowed. "I will shake this keep down to its very foundations, and pave the road to Hell with its foot-stones!!!" The ranger felt the muscles in his legs tighten as he girded himself to leap once again into battle.
The wind whistled over the hillock to the north, and the battle-maidens murmured amongst themselves. Their corselets of mail shimmered and gleamed with the slightest motion. Then a mere turn of their leader's head stilled them again into silent contemplation.
"Ye always were one tae wax a wee bit melodramatic," came a dry voice from beside him.
Longshanks spun his head around, to see, much to his astonishment, his friend the Rogue sitting up. Speechless, he grabbed up his comrade beneath one arm and helped him to his feet.
"Gods!!" he exclaimed finally, not unharshly, "I thought you were done for this life, you Irish bastard!!"
"Takes a bit more than a love tap like that tae keep an Irishman down." came the reply. Timeras winced as he felt the back of his head. His hand came away stained red with blood. "'Tho yer warnin' was a bit helpful, too." He forced a grin.
Longshanks felt moisture welling up under his eyes. "Timmy, I don't know what I would..." he started, grabbing his friend by the shoulder.
"Now, now, none o' that. Not while the foes 're watchin'!" O'Cuire said, disapprovingly, but clasped a hand to the ranger's arm passionately nevertheless, and the shadow of a grin dusted his lips for a moment.
Duril felt his throat tighten and a warmth flow throughout his chest. A broad smile began to creep across his features.
Timeras' vision swam a bit. "Unnh." he groaned. "Where is that cowardly bastard that smote me, anyway?"
Longshanks wiped off his smirk. "Dead. Toasting his stones in Hell."
The Irishman nodded, then swayed on his own feet, recovering his balance. He noted the impasse they were surrounded by. "Ooooo." he murmured, then glared around at the hostile host. He put his back to Duril's and picked up his sword. "Right. Just like old times, eh, Longshanks?"
The archer nodded, and locked his gaze back on the Black Knight.
The other swordsman, almost shaking in rage, could take no more. He brandished his sword and shouted, "You are surrounded! Surrender, or face no quarter!"
Longshanks saw, as if for the first time, the number of troops that had amassed. He got a bad taste in his mouth, and a sharp pang stabbed into the pit of his stomach. He swallowed dryly, and tightened his grip on his sword. Then he heard a sound that gladdened his heart. A sound that lifted the heaviness from him, refreshed his spirit, and allowed him to draw fresh breath again. It was music to his ears.
O'Cuire was laughing.
Longshanks knew it had started out as a smirk on the Rogue's face, as he had heard the ultimatum; knew it had grown quickly into a cocky chuckle as the enemy swordsman had brandished his weapon all a-bluster; knew that it then had become a full, hearty, deep-bellied laughter upon realizing, and then mocking the absurdity of the situation. Then Duril too felt himself smiling.
The swordsman was at first confused, then even more enraged at what he could only deem an insult. He charged forward, aiming a blow at the Irishman's head. Timeras parried easily the attack, brushing it aside with the flat of his own blade, then, quicker than the guard could react, smashed the steel hilt of his sword into his face.
The soldier staggered back, snorting blood through a crushed nose, hacking on teeth knocked in by the heavy hand-guard.
Longshanks set himself for the inevitable attack by the Black Knight, yet still it did not come. He did not have much time to puzzle it, for pain ripped through his thigh, and he suddenly lost the ability to stand on it. He looked down in agony and saw the crossbow bolt that had punctured his leg. It had just missed the bone, and now both ends thrust out through bloody rents in his flesh. He gritted his teeth and spat, turning his gaze to from whence the deadly dart had come, to see a cursing Sieghard of Schürstab, busily trying to reload an arbalest.
The air practically hummed with bolts after that, and the ranger and the Rogue perforce kept their heads down and braced themselves against the battlement wall.
Then, much to their surprise, a muffled voice called out. "Halt!" The Black Knight held up a gauntleted hand.
Duril looked up in astonishment, and O'Cuire threw a questioning glance over a shoulder. The knight reached up and removed the dark helm. Then the scintillation again struck Duril's eyes, but now he saw through the glamour that had bespelled him before. The very air around the knight shimmered with light and sparkle and color. The image of the knight blurred, then transformed. Longshanks's eyes widened in amazement at the sight before him as a braid of gold-colored hair tumbled out to drop limply across one of the knight's shoulders. A tall woman stood before him, no longer encased in black mail. She wore a gleaming silver corselet over a blackened chain byrnie, and a winged silvern helm. Her legs were bare, for the byrnie reached but to mid-thigh, and her black boots merely to the knee. The dull battle-sword had changed as well, now flashing steel in her ebon-gauntleted hand. There was a patch over one eye, but the other, pale blue in hue, met his as the she moved forward and knelt, to stare into his face. Her features were strong, yet finely chiseled, and would have been pleasing to his eye had the situation been different, but her expression was fierce, and her jaw was firmly set. A Valkyr! His stomach sank at the implication she represented.
"Hear me, Diebin am Nacht, thieves in the night," she said quietly. "'Tho you have stolen that which was of value to my lord, you have shown yourselves to be valiant and worthy opponents. I would pray ask a boon of you. Lay aside your arms. Honorable men such, should not die thus. You have my oath for your lives. Yield, that you might keep them. Refuse, and you shall die. Of this, I have no doubt." Once again, Longshanks's jaw lowered in amazement. If she was what she appeared to be, then he had no hope for survival. Of that he was sure. Yet her words had the ring of truth to them.
Sieghard rushed forward to the wall. "Thora!!" he shrieked aghast, "What treachery is this? Obey me, or your head will dance upon a pike beside theirs!!" He shook a fist up at his vassal, her glamour still before his and all others' eyes.
She gazed calmly down at the Teuton, then lowered her eyes, thinking back to their earlier confrontation. "I hear you, my lord."
The leader of the shield-maids on the distant hillock smiled, and her eyes sparkled. She was pleased.
Thora of Wildenstain straightened up, and looked down into the ranger's eyes. "Your answer, Herr 'Langshenkel'?"
Longshanks steeled himself and pushed away from the wall. In doing so, his gaze moved out and over the surrounding landscape outside the keep. It lit upon a figure standing in the middle of the road. It was the figure of a maiden, mounted upon a dark horse, looking back at the keep.
He heard O'Cuire stifle something akin to a guffaw, then allowed himself a smile, and turned back to the woman-knight, the Valkyr. A strange, gentle, illuminating calm washed over him. It was in that moment, he knew, that he loved that maid. That he loved her more than life itself; his own, or that of his friend beside him. He made his choice, the only one left open to him. Ride, little one. Ride for home, he thought.
"What say you to surrender, friend Timeras?" he heard himself saying over one shoulder.
"Not bloody likely," The reply was quick, accompanied by another snort of derision.
Longshanks nodded, then, gritting his teeth once again, reached down and snapped the head off the quarrel protruding from his leg, and, grasping the shaft, pulled the rest of the bolt through his leg. He gasped audibly in pain, then , looking at the warrior woman, spat on the bloody pieces of broken shaft, and threw them down at her feet.
She glanced down at the pieces, then back up at the ranger. "That then, is your answer?"
He stared into that pale blue sea. "There can be no other."
The two ravens atop the barbican crest croaked and cawed and beat the air, then took to flight with the fluttering of heavily feathered wings. Pinions black as night floated in their wake.
* * *
The maiden guided the mare out onto the plain road that led away from the keep. She looked about her, at the bodies strewn along it, like some giant child's play-room where it had flung its rag-dolls in a tantrum. Shafts of arrows rose from them at odd angles, evidence of their demises.
She gazed up at the fortress walls, to the top of the wall, where amongst the crenellations she could see her two rescuers, trapped, like she herself once was. Then, it looked as if the tall one, the one who had held her and comforted her, stared out and returned her gaze. She felt tears come to her eyes at the thought she would never see him ever again. You ride, girl, you keep on going, no matter what happens. No matter what happens. His voice echoed in her thoughts. She watched as the battle atop the keep ensued again. Tears running down her face, she turned the mare's head eastwards and kicked the horse into a gallop.
"Good-bye, Grandfather. I love you." she whispered, and headed into the rising sun, for home.
The Brethren- Mystic Brotherhood, mysterious and clandestine, engaged by Divine forces to aid humanity during its darkest hours.
Condottierre- "Captain of Fortune"; Military leader or captain whose mercenary services were available for a price. Flourished in the Italian States from the 12th to 15th centuries.
Fürsten- "First Born, Prince," the lesser nobles of the Holy Roman Empire.
Hanseatic League- A powerful association of cities in the northern Holy Roman Empire that promoted and protected mercantile trade.
Langshenkel- German for "Longshanks."
Obervogt- High Steward, a elected official. Manager of an estate or a household.
Raubritter- "Robber Knight," vicious land barons of the Holy Roman Empire who extorted tolls from unwary travelers.
St. Eustace- Patron Saint of hunters; Once a wealthy officer under the Roman Emperor Trajan, he was converted to Christianity while hunting one day, when he encountered a stag with a luminous crucifix between his antlers, and a heavenly Voice prophesied, "Thou shalt suffer many things for My sake." After he converted, his life was reduced to abject poverty, but, years later, he was reunited with his former position. He was killed with his family, roasted alive in the belly of a brass bull, after they refused to worship idols.
Teutons, Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons- Religious Order of Knighthood that crusaded in Prussia and Lithuania. Known for its great successes in converting lands east of Germany to Christendom, and its superb administrations of those lands.
Bailey- A courtyard.
Barbican- A defensive tower or similar fortification at a gate or a bridge leading into a castle or town. An outwork or forward extension of a castle gateway.
Bergfried- A square, central tower, essential to fortresses of the middle ages.
Hamburg- Large, independent Imperial Free City in the northwest of the Holy Roman Empire, along the river Elbe.
Lübeck- Large, independent Imperial Free City in the northwest of the Holy Roman Empire.
Merlon- part of a battlement, the square "sawtooth" between crenels.
Palisade- A fence or wall, often constructed of spikes, used for fortification or defense.
Parapet- A wall or bank used to screen troops from frontal enemy fire, sometimes placed along the top of a rampart. Also a wall or railing used to protect people from falling, as on a balcony or a bridge.
Prusiaski- A native German word that probably helped coin "Prussia."
Rampart- A defensive embankment, often of earth or stone, surmounted by a parapet, that encircles a castle, a fort, etc. for protection against attack.
Urbino- Large city in north of Italy, known as a great center of learning in the 14th century.
Wasserburg- "Water Castle," Any of the German towers built along a river or lake.
Arbalest- Heavier version of the crossbow that uses even slower reload mechanisms, such as a hand crank. It has superior penetrating and damage capabilities.
Bretache- A flap of mail drawn across the lower face to protect the chin.
Fauchard- Also known as a Glaive, it is a single-edged blade mounted on a long(7'-9') shaft and fitted with a circular plate just below the head.
Harnache- armor, usually in reference to a complete suit.
Hauberk- A Medieval coat of armor, usually of chain, scale, or banded mail.
Kastenbrust- A characteristically German breastplate.
Pike- Exceptionally long (18'-21') and heavy (16-20lbs) two-handed weapon resembling an extremely long spear. Popular infantry weapon for stopping cavalry charges.
Rhinegulden- "Rhine Gold," another name for the Florin, a very valuable gold coin, usually carried by noblemen or rich merchants, named for their minting in many of the wealthy Rhine cities.
Scramasax- A long knife, or short sword, usually having a single edge with an angled back-edge that extended to the thickened back of the blade for perhaps a third of its length. Having a simple grip of bone or wood and no pommel or guard, it was a favored weapon of the Anglo-Saxons and Norsemen.
Diebin am nacht- German for "Thieves in the night."
Herr- German for "Sir, Master, Gentleman."
Nett Hund- German for "Nice Doggie."
Score- A unit of measure; Twenty of something.
Terce, Lauds; Medieval time keeping- The standard "clock" used in the Middle Ages was based upon the routine of prayers in monasteries. There were eight of these "hours" or "offices" during the day. Roughly, three "modern" hours equaled one "monastic" hour. Terce was 9am, and Lauds 3am.
700 E. Kansas St.
Broken Arrow, OK 74012
email to: 'timeras' at cox.net